Yeah, I owe beer. That's gonna have to wait until the next set of jumps. There haven't been too many updates here due to a) laziness and b) a schedule that seemingly doesn't stop.
I was cleared off of AFF and onto self-supervision way back in September (wow! that was a while ago). It's interesting to read through my logbook and dredge up the details of each jump. Some are more clear than others" the last AFF jump with Steve through the sleet while doing front and backflips; watching the wind shift as I turned .for my final and heading all the way down the runway before busting on the tarmac; fighting to close the deployment bag on my first pack job (thanks Liz!).
Along the way I've started to get to know everyone at the DZ. It continues to amaze me what a warm and welcoming bunch they are. The advice they give is invaluable. From Chris', Aaron's, and Lewis' advice on improving my poised exit to Keith and Melissa's (The Flying Majeronis) tips on making it through a thick cloud deck safely to Tony's straight-forward explanation on how land right on target I can't say thank you nearly enough. Of course, as I think through just these few I keep remembering everyone else that's helped me along the way. I think I'm up to two cases owed just right now.
Saturday didn't start out looking too great. Leaving Raleigh it was cold, cloudy, and misty. Not exactly skydiving weather. The situation down in Raeford was, unfortunately, much the same. The weatherman wasn't exactly batting 1.000
Fortunately, it did finally clear up. I hopped on the first load and away we went. I don't know if anyone heard me yell "Happy New Year" on my way out of the plane or my whooping it up under canopy but I don't care. It was good to be back after a 3 week hiatus. The first jump was pretty uneventful. I practiced refining some of the belly flying and tracking techniques I'd been working on in the wind tunnel the day before. Of course, all of that preoccupation with the jump showed up in my landing. My pattern was crap and so was the landing. Tony chewed on my ear about that for a bit.
Jump number 2 was "interesting". I need to do 2 hop 'n' pops (low altitude jumps from 5500'). On the first one the clouds rolled in and there was a pretty solid deck from 3000' to 2800'. My poised exits have never been great and that's what I needed to do for this jump. Combine that with the novelty of the clouds and the fact that it's "low altitude" and my nerves got the better of me on the exit. I pushed up and away from the PAC and almost cracked my head on the rear stabilizer. Then, I pulled before I was completely stable. Throw in a measure of dearch just to make things interesting. The bad body position combined with a subterminal opening gave me a nice set of line twists on opening. It wasn't too bad, though. I pulled apart the risers and kicked my way out of them before the spin was too bad. At 4000' I was under canopy and doing a nice slow spiral downward.
This was definitely one of the most beautiful jumps I've been on. Above me the sky was perfectly clear. It was that perfect deep blue unmarred by clouds or contrails that just draws you into it. Below me was the cottony top of the cloud deck stretching out to the horizon. The sight was just amazing.
The flight through the clouds was something that can only be put into words imperfectly. The whole world collapses into just you. There is no sense of distance, no visual cues. You're flying through a void. The silence is only marred by the light flapping of the slider in the wind.
Eventually I came down from the clouds and setup my pattern. The no wind situation combined with a slightly smaller than usual canopy (I was on a PD 240 -- slightly more than a 1:1 wingloading for me) resulted in my misjudging my target and going short on the downwind leg and then long on the final. Jim managed to catch it on video.
We sat on a weather hold for the next hour or two. Jim hoofed it back to Raleigh and I sat around shooting the shit with the up jumpers. The weather broke and I headed up for my second hop 'n' pop. I was a little better on exit but I dearched and pushed to hard away from the plane. This spun me as I came away so that I was diving away rather than sliding backwards. I still need to work on that.
Tony's advice on hitting my target on landing, though, was just what I needed to hear. I'm sure it wasn't the prettiest pattern to watch as I made the many small corrections needed to hit where I wanted. And I did. Right into the freshly tore up turf. By my count I was the 4th person that day to catch a nice big mound of dirt and go face down into the dirt. So much for dignity!
I hopped onto the second to last load of the day and rode all the way to altitude. The poised exit was better but still not where it needs to be. I'm still dearching a bit but I'm confident that I'll nail it the next jump. I took it easy during freefall and didn't do anything crazy; it was just steady concentration on keeping good positive leg pressure so I didn't backslide, maintaining my hip position so I can move my arms without impacting my stability or fall rate, and keeping an eyeball on my altitude. The wave off and pull at 4500' was solid and I took my time coming down under canopy.
It wasn't quite a sunset load, but it was gorgeous nonetheless. I drank in the view and lazily rode my way down. My final leg was nice and steady and on the flare everything clicked for me -- without overthinking the process I made a two stage flare and ran it out in a few steps. This is something I've been struggling with and was definitely my big personal accomplishment for the day. It's kind of funny; I jump out of a plane several times in one day, something most people don't do once in their lives, and the part I'm happiest about is handling the last couple of feet well.
I have 3 more jumps I need to make before my A License check dive: two hop 'n' pops that can be signed off and my Category H dive. It's so close I can taste it. Cross your fingers that the weather cooperates next weekend.
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